COVID-19 cancels once-in-a-lifetime trip for Windsor speller

News source from CTV News

A Windsor spelling bee champion will miss out on her last chance to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 8, Giovanna Patcas won the WFCU Scripps Regional Spelling Bee, again finding herself in elite territory following a second-placed finish the year prior.

With the win, the Grade 8 student at L.A. Desmarais Catholic Elementary School earned a trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the prestigious national event.

Patcas’ hopes were dashed when on April 21, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was cancelled due to safety concerns tied to the pandemic.

“The Bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020,” reads a statement on the Scripps spelling bee website.

The young Patcas couldn’t wait for the trip.

“Just being on that stage – it was one of my dreams,” Giovanna says. “To meet Dr. Jacques Bailly, to just be up there and give it my best.”

When her mother, Mirela Patcas, learned of the cancellation – how to tell her excited daughter became a difficult minefield to navigate.

“I came home, and I was looking at her, and I said, ‘Giovanna’ and I told her right away, ‘The spelling bee was cancelled,’” explains Mirela.

What makes the cancellation even more heartbreaking for Patcas is she won’t get another crack at qualification.

The Scripps bee is only for Grade 4 to Grade 8 students, and Patcas has aged out following her 2020 win.

“This was her time to shine and she really, really is a brilliant student and she really had a great chance to be one of the top 50 kids at bee week,” says Beth Ann Prince, the head of member engagement and community investment with the Windsor Family Credit Union (WFCU).

Prince says Giovanna will still receive her identification badge and other items from Scripps as an official competitor.

Giovanna admits missing out on the trip to the U.S. capital is disappointing, but believes it’s a lesson that can only make her stronger.

“I can’t change it,” she says. “I mean, I hope they will reschedule it, but even if not, I’ll cheer on the other spellers watching it.”

As champion of the regional bee, her trip would have been covered by the WFCU.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee was set for the week of May 23 – 29.

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